Friday, 10 October 2014

Review: Lexicon, Max Barry

 Okay. About a week ago I had the thought that the government was monitoring us via the ubiquitous Playbuzz quizzes that I and everyone around me find addictive. They would use these endless list of questions, preferences and gameplaying to identify subversive elements, to mark us out, to control us.

Isn't is nice when fiction pays into your paranoia?

Actually, Lexicon is pretty fantastic. (Thanks Debs!)

 Rippingly well paced, it tells an engaging, intelligent story with some wonderfully threatening overtones. A thriller with a brain, a heart and a political conscience, it moves through real sweetness, visceral intensity and laugh out loud wit. It twists, turns, and confounds you. It's a full on, all boxes ticked wonder. It is genre fiction at its best.

 So, the premise: words create chemical signals in the brain. The right words spoken in the right order can create hormonal conditions which bypass our societal defences, leading to a state of euphoria and suggestibility. With the right words one can control a person, utterly.

The words used depend on a person's psychological profile, their 'segment', or 'type'. Even without these control words it is possible to manipulate someone by knowing their type - by knowing a more superficial set of buttons to press, by being able to guide their thoughts.

Hence all the questionnaires.

An organisation who call themselves 'Poets' study these words, teaching themselves defence against them, using them to shape the world that we know.They recruit Emily, a young woman from the streets with a natural ability for verbal manipulation, or 'attack'. Elsewhere in the narrative, Wil is 'the outlier', a man kidnapped by the Poets, a man who words cannot control. He is the only man to walk away from a disaster engineered by the sinister Woolf.  People want to know why, and how they can use his power of defence.

Any more information would constitute a spoiler. Go, read it, it's brilliant. Not perfect, and the ending... yeah, I had issues with the ending. But go read it, like right now.

Full out recommendation, no caveats.

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